WASHINGTON — The next big campaign finance case to go before the Supreme Court began in February 2012 in the grand ballroom at the Marriott Wardman Park hotel during the “Ronald Reagan Banquet” at the Conservative Political Action Conference.
Alabama electrical engineer and budding political donor Shaun McCutcheon broached a problem in conversation with conservative election lawyer Dan Backer, who one day earlier had led a CPAC panel on rolling back campaign finance laws in which he predicted that campaign contribution limits would soon rise.
McCutcheon had recently learned there were overall federal campaign contribution limits on what a single donor could give during a two-year election cycle. He voiced his annoyance to Backer and wondered if he could just ignore the aggregate limits — something that a few dozen donors wound up doing, whether deliberately or inadvertently, in the 2012 election.
“He could tell I didn’t like ‘em, so he said we could challenge and it would go all the way to the Supreme Court,” McCutcheon recalled in an interview with The Huffington Post. “I didn’t really believe him.”
A little more than a year later, McCutcheon, now joined by the Republican National Committee, is bringing the biggest campaign finance case before the Supreme Court since the controversial 2010 Citizens United decision. If the justices rule in their next term to toss the overall limits, it would mark the first time the Supreme Court had found a federal contribution limit unconstitutional and would open the door for even more money to flood the political system.
On Saturday, gun rights advocates will be organizing at least 121 rallies across the country in a “day of resistance” to President Obama’s gun violence prevention proposals. But some tea party activists are questioning the credentials of the group organizing the rallies, a Mesa, Arizona-based outfit called theteaparty.net that’s been criticized as a data-harvesting operation designed to vacuum up contact information and credit card numbers from unsuspecting and largely clueless conservative activists. They’ve complained that the group raises tons of money under the tea party name but doesn’t spend much to further the movement, and they’re skeptical of its move into the gun debate.
Robin Stublen, a Florida tea party activist and gun owner, is suspicious of the Day of Resistance event. “All my life I have been around guns of some sort,” he says. “Some are truly works of art. I respect them. I would never think of using them as the next political toy to make a fast buck. I seriously doubt if any of these so-called ‘leaders’ could tell the business end of a gun, let alone take them apart and clean them. They are opportunists and should be ignored.”
theteapary.net was founded by Todd Cefaratti, an Arizona man who is the CEO of a “lead generation” company for the reverse-mortgage industry and who has inserted himself into tea party politics in recent years. In 2011, theteaparty.net sponsored a truck at NASCAR’s Camping World Truck Series, and it made a big splash by sponsoring a tea party “unity rally” at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida, last year. It’s been a sponsor of the Conservative Political Action Conference in DC this year and last, raising its profile among conservative activists.
It’s time for progressives to get out the popcorn.
CPAC is coming! Prepare your battleships, patriots. On March 14, the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference descends upon innocent Americans in order to spread the goodness of Dick Morris, movies sponsored by Citizens United and the liberty of fracking. Woo hoo!
But once again, there’s trouble in paradise, because once again, CPAC gave GOProud the boot. They invited Wayne La Pierre this year (along with Ralph Reed and conspiracy theorist Ben Shapiro) and last year, they had white supremacist John Derbyshire, but gays are too divisive.
Last year, GOPRoud was “kicked out” of CPAC because they are gay, according to GOProud Executive Director Jimmy LaSalvia. The gay conservatives are told they can come as individual registrants this year, but no booth. No seat at the figurative and literal table. Why? Because the loudest voices in the conservative movement don’t want RINOs; aka, no compromising just for a big tent. So, gay Republicans, you’re out.
To wit, the twitter wars:
Big business groups like the Chamber of Commerce spent millions of dollars in 2010 to elect Republican candidates running for the House. The return on investment has not always met expectations.
Even though money for major road and bridge projects is set to run out this weekend, House Republican leaders have struggled all week to round up the votes from recalcitrant conservatives simply to extend it for 90 or even 60 days. A longer-term transportation bill that contractors and the chamber say is vital to the recovery of the construction industry appears hopelessly stalled over costs.
At the same time, House conservatives are pressing to allow the U.S. Export-Import Bank, which has financed business exports since the Depression, to run out of lending authority within weeks. The bank faces the very real possibility of shutting its doors completely by the end of May, when its legal authorization expires.
And a host of routine business tax breaks — from wind energy subsidies to research and development tax credits — cannot be passed because Republican insistence that they be paid for with spending cuts.
Business groups that worked hard to install a Republican majority in the House equated Republican control with a business-friendly environment. But the majority is first and foremost a conservative political force, and on key issues, its ideology is not always aligned with commercial interests that helped finance election victories.
“Free market is not always the same as pro-business,” said Barney Keller, spokesman for the conservative political action committee Club for Growth.
There could be real-world consequences to the conservative rebellion. The 90-day extension of the highway trust fund that House Republican leaders say they will pass this week in lieu of a broad highway bill would keep existing projects moving for now. But business groups say few new government-funded infrastructure projects can get under way without longer-range certainty about federal backing.
“The majority of the work is supposed to go out in spring and get done by the fall,” said Jeff Shoaf, senior executive director of government affairs at the Associated General Contractors, a group that donated $1 million to candidates in 2010, 80 percent of that to Republicans. “Instead of spending 60 or 70 percent of their budgets, they’re going to cut back to 50 or 40 percent to make sure they have some cash in the fall.”
Exports have been one of the bright spots of the fragile recovery, but without Export-Import Bank financing, companies large and small could find themselves struggling to complete contracts with overseas buyers. Those buyers will likely turn to foreign competitors whose governments have more robust versions of the bank, businesspeople say.
“There’s not a bank in the United States that’s going to loan money to that customer of mine in Argentina to buy my airplane,” said David Ickert, vice president of finance at Air Tractor, which makes crop-dusting and firefighting airplanes in Olney, Tex. “There is not a free-market system that operates like that. It does not exist. We need the Ex-Im Bank, period.”
Like so much else in Congress these days, it is not that simple.